Member Spotlight: Rep. Khanh Pham

Khanh Pham has served as a volunteer with the party and was elected in 2020 to represent House District 46 in SE Portland.

Why and how did you become involved in the Multnomah County Democrats?

My first real involvement in the actual Democratic Party of Multnomah County was when I ran for office, and I think that’s often a feature of Democratic Party — that normal people who hadn’t always seen themselves in elected office can win the support of the party. I ran for office as a Democrat because I believed that democracy is strongest when communities, not corporate lobbyists, shape the legislation that impacts our daily lives and the future of our children. I believe that our state government should reflect the diversity of the communities it serves, and I believe that Oregon can lead the nation in showing how the necessary transition to a renewable economy can be good for people, the economy, and the environment.

Why do you think it’s important for Democrats to become involved at the local level??

They say that democracy is a garden that must be tended to; when it is well kept, it is beautiful, thriving, blooming with color. But when you let the weeds and hate grow beneath the surface, it suffocates everything. None of this caretaking happens without ordinary people putting in the work, and leading decision-makers to understand what is being felt day to day.
It is my belief that those who are most impacted by policy decisions made by their government should have a say in what happens to them. The consequences of our elections and policies will affect peoples’ lives for decades to come. Our elected leaders’ decisions to tackle the climate crisis, wealth inequality, to protect human health and extend equitable opportunity to all, those choices will reverberate throughout their lives.

What are some of the priorities for our state and for Multnomah County this year?

Environmental & Climate Justice: Throughout session I have been in coalition championing a trio of bills called Oregon Clean Energy opportunities are winding its way through the legislature, bills that fight for environmental justice by introducing advocacy for energy affordability for climate-impacted communities, home hardening and resilience funding, and standards for 100% clean energy to make sure Oregon is on the right track for its climate goals.

Affordable Housing: The influx of federal American Rescue Plan dollars has given our legislature a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make proactive investments that would create and maintain our affordable housing stock. With this funding, we can acquire land, fund the development of affordable housing that meets the needs of communities across Oregon, remove barriers to homeownership opportunities, and address existing racial and economic barriers to housing stability.

East Portland priorities: My top priority is responding to the urgency of Portland pedestrians dying on unsafe corridors like 82nd ave, and asking ODOT and PBOT to come together to fund and solve these preventable deaths. Additionally, the ongoing rise in anti-Asian American discrimination and violence needs to be more forcefully combatted, and I am working with my caucus to address hate crimes response.

What is making you hopeful right now?

In spite of everything, I get tremendous hope and inspiration from getting to do this work and being in community with so many changemakers. Some of the many things giving me hope right now include:
-Watching HB 2745 Energy Affordability bill pass the Senate this week with bipartisan support
-Cultivating relationships with coalitions like the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, who are bringing people from around the state, who don’t normally have their voices heard, and making sure they’re helping to shape energy polciy.
-Watching my daughter learn to ride a bicycle! It scares me because we don’t have sidewalks for her to practice in but thrills me to watch her grow in her sense of autonomy and agency.

What advice can you provide to our Democrats in Multnomah County?

An old political adage, sometimes credited to FDR and revived in a 2009 speech by President Obama, tells of a meeting between activists and FDR where, after listening to their plea, the president turns and says, “ I agree with you. I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it. As a community organizer, I believe it’s important to listen, to be in partnership with electeds (when possible), but always keep the community and narrative pressure on lawmakers, even those who support your cause. There is key difference between supporting something and prioritizing something, and don’t assume that putting public pressure on lawmakers is uncomfortable for them. In fact, it may be just the thing they’re looking for to get momentum going.